Your Views: Times columnists need viewpoint diversity

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Your Views: Times columnists need viewpoint diversity
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To the editor:

I ask that you seek a greater diversity of views among those you feature in the yellow-background columns on the weekly opinion page. The substance of recent pieces by Alexandria education leaders Mark Eaton, Meagan Alderton and Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Ed.D., leaves much to be desired. Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter’s bromides on leadership offer no insight into his bail and prosecution decisions.

I was disheartened to learn that no economically disadvantaged student – or perhaps one, concealed by rounding – at my neighborhood elementary school, Naomi L. Brooks, earned a passing grade in science last year. According to the Virginia Department of Education, the share of economically disadvantaged students at Naomi Brooks who passed science declined from 47% in 2018-2019 to 0% in 2020-2021; mathematics dropped from 39% to 3%.

At Alexandria City High School, these figures decline from 56% to 26% and 58% to 28%, respectively. With no irony, the ACPS website header features “Equity for All” in large type. We have a duty to foster educational excellence and to hold public officials accountable for the same.

Alexandria’s education leaders use this platform to pay lip service to unspecified equity goals rather than leading with concrete actions addressing the gravest scandal in our city: the staggering achievement gap among our most vulnerable children.

Eaton ruminates on listening, Alderton writes vaguely about equity and Women’s History Month and Hutchings offers a paean to Black History Month. All are worthy perspectives but are hardly evidence of critical thinking, self-examination or accountability. Potential factors in academic underachievement – parental engagement, the value placed on schoolwork versus social media and video games and what the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan called “the soft bigotry of low expectations” – go unexamined by these leaders.

I applaud the Times’ motto from Thomas Jefferson: “Where the press is free and every man is able to read, all is safe.” I’m not familiar with the context but I’m guessing Jefferson’s notion of “safety” referred to the liberties of the typical citizen, not to the job security of public officials. People who already hold positions of power in our city should not be granted space for comfortable puff pieces in these pages.

I hope you will consider ways to recommit the Times to its important role as our independent hometown newspaper.

-Kevin Bloomfield, Alexandria

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